Interview with Lynette M. Smith for AuthorMePro

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PKY/AMP: Hello Lynette, and thanks for getting back to us at AuthorMeProfessionals. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer. What inspired you to write your first book?

A personal event inspired me to write about how to compose and send treasured letters of appreciation. When our son Byron married Lynette SmithRachael in 2008, they each wrote a loving letter to their own parents, describing not only their fondest childhood memories but also the values, life lessons, and ideals they would bring to their marriage. At the wedding rehearsal, one at a time, they presented these framed letters to their parents. Both sets of parents, as well as all others present, were deeply moved, and we will always treasure our loving memento.

Inspired by Byron and Rachael’s heartfelt creativity, a year later I published a set of four marriage-themed tips booklets. Then, in late 2011, when I wondered aloud whether to write a broader-based book to help people write all types of letters of appreciation, a voice in my head gently but distinctly responded, “Your book will be published by August 15.” I have honored that voice and recently met that deadline by publishing How to Write Heartfelt Letters to Treasure: For Special Occasions and Occasions Made Special ( © 2012, All My Best; ISBN 978-0-9858008-0-2).

APKY/AMP: Now, that’s a really helpful book. Could tell us what genre you generally write and have you considered other genres?

In past articles and booklets, as well as in my new book, How to Write Heartfelt Letters to Treasure, I have focused on how-to topics.On Heartfelt Letters to Treasurethe other hand, for my personal legacy binder I have written vignettes of my own life experiences or those of family members, that I believe would be of interest to my family someday. I enjoy relating these stories, both in writing and as part of our family’s oral history.

APKY/AMP: Understandable. J Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?

Absolutely. How to Write Heartfelt Letters to Treasure has a big, achievable goal: to get millions of people worldwide to focus on love and gratitude by writing letters of appreciation to the people who have made a positive difference in their lives. Together we can change the world, one heartfelt letter at a time.

APKY/AMP: A lovely message. Tell us what you’ve had published to-date.

Over the years, I’ve published dozens of business-related how-to articles in trade journals and have rewritten manuals for the business-support-services profession. More recently, I’ve published a set of four wedding-related tips booklets, themed Good Ways to Write a Treasured Letter, to help a bride write to her groom, a groom write to his bride, either of them write to their respective parents, or parents write to their son or daughter getting married.

APKY/AMP: Lynette, I’d just love you to post those articles for our readers at http://authormepro.com/conversation. Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write from the heart, because that’s where “the best stuff” comes from. Trust your instincts. And keep a small notepad handy at all times, so you can write thoughts as they occur to you and won’t forget them.

APKY/AMP: Right. So, why should we buy your book?

How to Write Heartfelt Letters to Treasure is unique; it helps you express heartfelt written appreciation in a memorable, long-lasting way. You may want to commemorate a wedding, milestone birthday, an anniversary, or a cultural or religious rite of passage. Perhaps you’d like to thank an employee, supervisor, stellar service provider, or the creator of an exceptional product. Maybe you want to tell a friend or aging relative about the positive influence he or she has had on your life. Or you want to compose and deliver a meaningful eulogy or other public tribute. You may even want to mend a torn relationship. All these situations and dozens more are addressed, and the appendix contains additional tools to help you compose your letters. Peggy Post, director of The Emily Post Institute and co-author of the 18th edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette, has strongly endorsed my book in her guest foreword. To read a PDF file containing her foreword, plus several notable testimonials and the contents listing, go to http://tinyurl.com/HeartfeltSummary.

APKY/AMP: You really cover a lot of ground there. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?

My book was published in late summer 2012, and the brand I am promoting is APPRECIATION. To date I’ve done 100% of the book marketing personally, except for the help of friends who have been moved to announce the availability of my book to their friends, relatives, and social-media contacts. Soon I’ll resume work with my search-engine-optimization expert for my publishing website, GoodWaysToWrite.com. Later, I’ll contact appropriate bloggers to write guest blogs or be interviewed. I’ll also be contacting local libraries and nonprofit organizations to announce my availability as a presenter on the topic, “The Big, Achievable Goal” (described earlier) or on a more specialized topic. I may also conduct workshops through city recreation departments, the community-services branches of local community college districts, or even on cruises; who knows? I’m also making my book available to appropriately themed retail outlets, such as fine stationery stores, spiritual or religious gift and bookstores, and even florists. I may also approach selected mainstream mail-order catalogs such as Harriet Carter or Lillian Vernon, if I think they will be a good fit. I’m comfortable pacing myself on all these activities, rather than dropping everything else in my life and career to spend all my time marketing.

APKY/AMP: Wow. Lynette, I think I’ll get back to you privately to teach me how to do marketing for my own projects! J Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?

My book is too new to have been entered in any competitions yet, but I will do so as opportunities arise. I’m confident that the book’s quality content and appearance will garner positive recognition in a short time, and I believe that recognition will add credibility, helping readers decide this book is a worthwhile investment.

APKY/AMP: Way to go. Is there a special place that you prefer when you write?

I always write in my office, but I also keep a small notepad handy whenever I’m away. I never know when inspiration or insight will strike, and I want to be ready when it does; I don’t want to miss or forget a thing. Case in point: My book’s title came to me one morning while I was brushing my teeth; I stopped right then and jotted it down in the notepad on my nightstand. Over the next several months, I found I couldn’t improve on that original inspired title, no matter how hard I thought about it; and my editor loved it, too.

APKY/AMP: Great. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?

An agent, once acquired, can be priceless in accelerating the marketing and promotion process and therefore sales. But the time invested to attract an agent can be great, and I didn’t want anything to delay my book’s release, so I chose not to seek an agent. Also, I wanted to pace my marketing efforts for this evergreen book so I could continue to operate my well-established copyediting business too.

APKY/AMP: I quite agree – the time required to get an agent is enough to write a couple of novels! What are you working on at the moment?

Book-writing experts say authors should either “go wide” by prolifically writing a whole series of books on a theme (past examples are Chicken Soup for the Soul or Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff) or in a genre (e.g., Stephen King’s horror novels or James Michener’s historical novels), or else “go deep” by writing one book and thereafter marketing it in depth, while perhaps producing ancillary products related to it. I’m choosing to “go deep” and have a number of appreciation-based information products in the works to complement my book and the theme/brand of appreciation. Those products will gradually be added to my publishing website, www.GoodWaysToWrite.com.

APKY/AMP: A site to visit. I went the contemporary intercultural romance way and hope my series BOUND TO TRADITION, will get readers. Now, what is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?

There were times in writing my book when I knew I had to complete a chapter or a subsection to stay on schedule, but I wasn’t particularly inspired at the time. So I followed the advice I’d heard more than once: Write anyway, even though the quality or inspiration may be lacking; then in a later draft, refine what you’ve written. It worked.

APKY/AMP: Okay. Do you outline your material or do you just get an idea and off you are with it?

Although I usually create copious outlines before I begin to write anything of a how-to nature, for my book I just developed a working table of contents, showing major subheadings only, before I began to write. Certain chapter topics required me to deviate from my usual highly structured thinking in order to present the material in the most effective way for the topic. It was fascinating and refreshing to write like that, and I’m pleased with the results.

APKY/AMP: Good for you, Lynette. Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?

Trusting my ability to organize and present material coherently, I was rather private with the material I had written. I showed only a couple of relevant chapters to experts I knew in certain fields, such as teaching or human resources, to get their perspectives on whether I had missed anything or been inaccurate.

APKY/AMP: Right. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?

As a professional copyeditor myself, I usually tend to over-edit as I write articles and other material, getting bogged down in the details. However, in writing my book I knew that to meet my publishing deadline I would have to simply write and write and never look back (except to correct obvious typos as I made them) until the first draft was completed. For the second draft, I allowed myself to refine to my heart’s content. For the third draft, I fine-tuned the writing to assure clarity and smooth flow. Even though I’m a professional copyeditor, I knew better than to trust only my own eyes after that, for I was too familiar with my writing and I needed a fresh perspective. So I gave that draft to my wonderful editor, Barbara McNichol, who had the sensitivity to address or flag any remaining weaknesses, catch any errors in grammar, punctuation, usage, clarity, or flow, and make my writing sparkle in the process. It was that result that I then typeset.

APKY/AMP: Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?

Since I’ve been a touch typist for my entire adult life, I much prefer the computer so my writing can keep up with my flow of thoughts. Besides, I never get writer’s cramps at the keyboard.

APKY/AMP: J Good point! What do you like to read?

As a young adult, I enjoyed reading William Shakespeare (comedies and tragedies), James Michener (especially The Source and Centennial), and John Steinbeck (especially East of Eden), and I still keep all my favorite works by these authors on my bookshelf. In early and later midlife, I enjoyed science fiction by Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game and sequels) and Michael Crichton (all his books!), as well as thriller/horror and other themes by Stephen King (especially Hearts in Atlantis and The Green Mile), Dean Koontz (especially Watchers, Bag of Bones, and more recently the Odd Thomas series), and John Grisham (especially The Client). In later midlife, I have also enjoyed books with more spiritual themes, such as James Redfield’s The Celestine Prophecy, don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, and Neale Donald Walsh’s Conversations with God.

APKY/AMP: Wow, you’re really a wide reader. So when you’re not writing, what do you do? Any hobbies or party tricks?

I appreciate the company of good friends and family. I also collect art glass and art pottery, both vintage and contemporary, as long as it’s beautiful or interesting. In my spare time, I have fun with my wonderful little Canon PowerShot Digital Elph—it may be small, but it packs a wallop! Favorite photographic subjects have been Georgia O’Keefe-style close-ups of flora and fauna, so you can see a lovely abstract effect; and I’ve carried that concept into shooting close-ups of interesting-looking tree trunks; did you know puzzle bark resembles a satellite map photo?

APKY/AMP: No, I admit I didn’t. You’re amazing, Lynette. Tell me, where can we find out about you and your work?

My publishing website, www.GoodWaysToWrite.com, contains information about me and the information products I’ve written. So far, How to Write Heartfelt Letters to Treasure is listed there (as well as on major online bookseller sites), as are my four wedding-themed Good Ways to Write a Treasured Letter tips booklets and an author tool called What Editors Do (a table to help identify the type of editor(s) they may need for their writing projects). I recommend that readers bookmark this site and check back often to see what’s new.

APKY/AMP: Yes, I’ve had a look at your website and loved the way it’s so clear and uncluttered. In comparison mine is a mess! Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

Life can be fleeting, so start writing letters of appreciation now! Doing so will help you establish, enhance, and rebuild your relationships, and that in turn will change your world for the better—one heartfelt letter at a time.

How to Write Heartfelt Letters to Treasure: For Special Occasions and Occasions Made Special is the best tool available if you need guidance. Not only does it address over 150 types of letters of appreciation, but its appendix contains over 1,000 powerful words to help you describe someone special, organized into 15 demographic lists; offers choices of the best inspirational quotations to enhance your letters, from within 10 categories; and presents a selection of great beginnings in 11 themes to jumpstart your sentences in case you get stuck.

APKY/AMP: Thank you, Lynette. I now invite you to include an extract of your writing:

From the chapter, “Mending a Torn Relationship”:

Good relationships require care and nurturing. Even then, relationships that have always been good can be unexpec­tedly upset by an argument or other incident. The problem may result from jealousy, a misunderstanding, an insult dir­ected at you or a family member, a rumor, or a buildup of small resentments that eventually become too much to accept.

Sometimes these upsets blow over quickly and things return to normal. Other times, the situation lasts for days, months, years, or indefinitely. One or both parties may feel unable or unwilling to apologize, ask for forgiveness, offer forgiveness, or otherwise extend an olive branch to the other. So much time can pass that sometimes the parties even forget why they became upset with each other in the first place.

… Friends and relatives surrounding this torn relationship can be affected, too. If a friendship breaks up, for example, then people giving a party may rightly invite both their friends who aren’t getting along, rather than choose sides. But then one or both of the invitees may place the hosts in an uncomfortable position by asking individually whether the other is planning to attend, and then saying, “Well, I’m not going to be there if he’s there, too!” Or, if they both attend, they may either overtly avoid each other or else have a confrontation and thus make other guests uncomfortable.

And what about innocent bystanders within the family—parents, children, siblings, and grandparents? Some family members feel they’re forced to choose sides if two of their children or siblings aren’t speaking to each other. And how do you manage family holidays together? When there’s a schism in the family, peace is destroyed.

With all these unpleasant side effects to anger and upset, you have ample incentive to strive to mend the torn relationship and return to peace and harmony—between the two of you and among those dear to both of you. And that’s what the remainder of this chapter is about.

From the beginning of the chapter, “Bringing Meaning to a Life Well Lived”:

Most people, especially as they grow older, want to believe they have made a positive difference in their world. Maybe they’ve been a loving spouse or parent, grown good crops, been kind to animals, volunteered in worthwhile causes, taught or mentored others, represented a strong example to friends and co-workers, given wise counsel, helped patients with their medical needs or clients with their goals, con­ducted important research, invented a useful product—the possibilities are nearly infinite.

Much of this chapter focuses on helping others realize, through a letter of appreciation, that indeed they have made a positive difference. That realization helps give their life meaning. Do write and deliver that letter soon, because life can be fleeting.

But even if people have died, it’s still important to honor them and their legacy. You can do this by writing and deliv­ering a eulogy or brief public tribute. Alternatively, you can write a more personal letter and deliver it as part of a more private or personal observance. This chapter offers several ways you can do that.

APKY/AMP: Wonderful. Thank you once again, Lynette.